Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My Mother's Garden by Emila Yusof

Regionally specific children's books are hard to come by in much of Southeast Asia, so it's nice to see My Mother's Garden, an offering from OneRedFlower, a Malaysian press.

Here are some things debut author-illustrator Emila Yusof does in this book:

She doesn't drum in its cultural or geographic specificity. It's just the first person narrative of a child in a garden with her cat, playing and watching until the raindrops fall, driving them indoors.

This garden, however, does not have roses and daffodils in it. It's full of lush tropical plantings, and the child doesn't stop to explain that. She just plays on the cusp of reality and her own fantastic imaginings, while around her are aloe vera and hibiscus, ginger and frangipani and ixora. Backmatter shows us the botanical and common names of plants in the book, along with spot illustrations, but young readers can just as easily enjoy the book without this added information.

Children who live near such gardens will recognize them and feel the pleasure that comes with familiarity. Children who have never seen a frangipani tree could well feel the very different pleasure that comes from traveling through the pages of a book.

Slice of life stories may feel passe in markets that were deluged with them twenty years ago, but in some places the questions still remain: whose slice and which lives are being privileged, and why.


  1. Hi, Uma! This is great! (I don't know this title and will need to find it.) Your discussion put me in mind of when I was little, looking at books. When I opened those covers, I stepped inside. I looked around. I tasted things. I smelled things. And the more "unOhioan" the books were, the better. It was the pictures, not the words, that bridged these cultural gaps for me. Now I need to have a good look at this book to see how the images and text relate. Fun, fun!

  2. I need to pick this up for my kids- they both love books and plants.